A hatchet is stone tools cut characteristic of the old periods of the Préhistoire, in particular of the Acheuléen.
HistoryThe word “hatchet”, derived from “axe” by addition of a diminutive, indicated at the origin of the metal tools of various trade associations, of which wet coopers. Henri Breuil is the first used it to indicate a prehistoric tool in 1924.
Definition and characteristics
The hatchet is a tool produced on a great glare which always comprises a transverse edge not improved. Its edges and its base are modified, sometimes worked as those of a Biface but its edge is always rough. This edge can correspond to a natural surface of roller in the shapes of the simplest hatchets. It is generally formed by the intersection of the lower face of the glare support with one or more negative of former removals: in this direction, the edge of the hatchets is generally predetermined by a particular preparation of the Nucléus from which it is extracted.
The majority of the hatchets are massive, usually reaching 20 with 30 cm length. Certain exceptional parts reach 3 with 4 kg. Contrary, in certain African series, there exist small hatchets of less 10 cm length.
The materials employed are very varied: volcanic rocks (Rhyolite, Basalt, Obsidian), Quarzite, sandstone, Calcareous but also Flint although enough seldom. The scarcity of the use of flint for this type of tool caused many interpretations, in particular in relation to its function. It more simply seems to correspond to the scarcity of the use of this matter on a traditional area and sphere scale, especially of where were held the first prehistoric research, like the South-west of France.
For lack of traceologic analyzes, the function of the hatchets is not known with precision. It is probable that certain hatchets were fixed.
The hatchet during time
The hatchet is particularly current with the Acheuléen, that it is in Africa, in Asia and Europe of the South. It is present in the sequence of Olduvai starting from old Acheuléen, gone back to approximately 1,6 million years (site EF-HR).
During the average Pleistocene, the hatchets are known in all the Africa (Isenya, Olorgesailie, Isimila, Kamoa, etc) and in an important part of the Eurasia: Spain, South of the France, the Middle East, Indian Sub-continent. Certain sites count several hundreds of specimens of them.
At higher Pleistocene, the hatchets are done much rarer. Some are known with the Paléolithique means, in the Moustérien of the free-Cantabric area in particular French side with the cave of Isturitz, with the Abri Olha, and Spanish side with the Castillo or the Cueva Morin.
Implications and interpretations
The hatchet is a very particular tool which imply Savoir-faire and specific knowledge. It is not very probable that it was invented many times in different places, as it is perhaps the case for the Biface S. the distribution of the hatchets thus translates undoubtedly shifts in population. Because of its absence in Eastern Europe, it is trying to think that it arrived in Europe of the South at the time of one migration of populations through the Straits of Gibraltar. This one could correspond to the beginnings of the Acheuléen in Europe, there is approximately 600 000 years.
Moreover, the realization of hatchets implies a choice among a range of possibility: other tools were simpler to produce. The manufacture of a hatchet can be explained by no environmental constraint (materials varied, presence in very different mediums, on several continents). It is thus about a choice which concerns the cultural tradition.
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